The petrosal lobules (in whole or part homologous with the paraflocculi) of the cerebellum regulate functions associated with vision including smooth pursuit and velocity control of eye movements, suggesting a possible relationship between the petrosal lobules and behavioral adaptation. Previous studies have produced diverging conclusions regarding the lobules' ecological signal. The current study examines lobule scaling within an ecologically diverse but phylogenetically constrained sample of extant mammals to determine whether ecology influences relative petrosal lobule size. Using the endocasts of 140 Euarchontoglires (Primates, Scandentia, Dermoptera, Lagomorpha, Rodentia), petrosal lobule size was evaluated relative to endocranium and body size, accounting for phylogenetic relationships and ecology (locomotor behavior, diet, activity pattern). Results show a strong positive relationship between lobule size and both endocranial volume and body mass. Phylogeny is a major factor in the scaling of the petrosal lobules, with significant differences in relative size identified between orders and suborders. Concerning ecology, fossorial taxa were found to have significantly smaller petrosal lobules relative to body mass compared to other locomotor groups across Euarchontoglires. The small lobules possessed by this group may reflect an adaptation related to reduced visual reliance. In contrast to previous research, no relationship was identified between relative lobule size and any other ecological variables. While variation in relative lobule size may be adaptively significant in some groups (i.e., fossorial species), it is critical to study the evolution of petrosal lobule size within a narrow phylogenetic scope, with inclusion of fossil material to inform our understanding of evolutionary trajectories.
- petrosal lobule